by Barbara McNichol
Much of the spoken language slides into our writing, but at times the words we say aren’t the exact fit for what we mean. Check your intention every time!
Consider these sentences from a manuscript about education:
- How many principals do what they feel will win approval?
- The public feels certain people shouldn’t be teaching.
Given the context, is “feel” the correct word to express the author’s meaning? No, because the essence of the intended meaning doesn’t come from an emotional “feeling” source. Rather, it comes from a profound conviction based on experience—a place of belief.
Replace “feeling” with the word “believe,” which involves caring about something. It implies a deeper kind of thinking—a mental activity that doesn’t necessarily have a sense of conviction. Because of this distinction, the better word choices would be:
- How many principals do what they believe will win approval?
- The public believes certain people shouldn’t be teaching.
Your challenge: Question yourself when you select a commonly spoken word. Does it express the exact meaning based on its context? From now on, designate “feel” a red-flag word. Then replace it with “think” or “believe” or “hope” or another verb and reread your sentence. Is “feel” the most precise word to convey your intended meaning? If not, pause and find exactly the right one.
Unsure which of these verbs—feel, think, believe—to use in your own writing? For feedback on your sentence(s), request it here.